18. 18 people affiliated with the InterReligious Task Force on Central America (IRTF), traveled to the desert in Nogales, a town which straddles Arizona and Sonora earlier this month.

IRTF is a Cleveland based non-profit founded by people of conscience and faith after the martyrdom of two Cleveland women in El Salvador by U.S. trained military in 1980. Carrying on the legacy of other human rights defenders, IRTF educates, advocates, and organizes for peace, justice and systemic transformation through nonviolence. The Task Force works to change international policies, corporate actions and consumer behaviors that undermine justice.

1,000s. Thousands converged at the US/Mexico border to participate in the first Bi-National Convergence, which was organized by School of Americas Watch. SOA Watch’s longtime mission has been to close the infamous School of the Americas (SOA) which has trained thousands of military personnel in Latin America that have subsequently carried out egregious human rights violations against their own people.

After the US House of Representatives voted to defund the SOA in 1999, the Pentagon renamed it to the Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation (WHINSEC). For over 25 years a weekend vigil with annual participation nearing 20,000 people, has been held at Ft. Benning, GA to remember the thousands killed by graduates. IRTF has facilitated the participation of thousands from Ohio.

78,000+ In 2016, over 78,000 (the majority of whom come from Honduras, El Salvador and Guatemala) have crossed the US/Mexico border and many more have been apprehended at the Mexico/Guatemala border. U.S. Customs and Border Protection apprehensions in the past twelve months totaled approximately 409,000, up 23% from the previous year. To better understand the root causes of migration and address broader societal militarization, grassroots efforts were made this year to mobilize at the border. Our experience taught us about how neoliberal economic policies and the militarized “War on Drugs” have displaced thousands of refugees seeking to escape drug- and gang-related violence, as well as state sponsored violence.

In Nogales, and many other areas along the border, Mexican and US culture have been woven together. This fabric has been torn apart by laws that have created economic, social, and legal apartheid. The Obama administration has deported more than 2.5 million people, more than any other administration in US history. We hope all of those who support Global Cleveland, decide to become more informed and get engaged in issues of global justice. To get involved visit IRTFcleveland.org or join us on November 6th from 4-8pm at Beaumont School as we learn from Marlen Sanchez, agroecology expert from the Association of Campesino Workers in Nicaragua.